30 'Paradise Lost' Quotes Blurring The Line Between Good & Evil

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Paradise Lost is an epic poem written in the 17th century by John Milton. It is a tale about Satan, his fall from Heaven, and his rebellion against God.

Paradise Lost discusses the nuances in morality and Christianity, creating a sympathetic tone for the Devil’s story of woe.

Binary thinking is a Western, Christian concept which oversimplifies complex constructs. Black and white thinking is too rigid and is ignorant to gray reality. Christianity teaches that God is good and Satan is evil, but Milton points out that good and evil are not so easily simplified through his narrative of Satan’s perspective. 

Read on for direct quotes from Paradise Lost that blur the line between good and evil.

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1. “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” — John Milton

There is good in bad and bad in good, there isn’t such a stark separation between the two.

2. “Abashed the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely: and pined his loss.” — John Milton

Awful goodness is an oxymoron, yet it is a correct concept.

3. “This horror will grow mild, this darkness light.” — John Milton

Everything is in constant flux; circumstances and feelings change.

4. “What is dark within me, illumine.” — John Milton

Even darkness can glow.

5. “For so I created them free and free they must remain.” — John Milton

We have the right to freedom, but absolute freedom is anarchy.

6. “O sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams that bring to my remembrance from what state I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere.” — John Milton

We yearn for what is lost, but can only move forward. Nonetheless we are still affected by the past.

7. “Knowledge forbidden? Suspicious, reasonless. Why should their Lord envy them that? Can it be a sin to know? Can it be death?” — John Milton

Knowledge illuminates goodness, but it also shows darkness.  

8. “And that must end us, that must be our cure: to be no more. Sad cure!” — John Milton

We must take the evil with the good in order to live. Death is the only escape from suffering, but it is not worth the loss of vitality.

9. “Our torments also may in length of time become our Elements.” — John Milton

We grow and evolve from our pain. Past pain becomes future strength.

10. “Then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a Paradise within thee, happier far.” — John Milton

To Satan, Heaven, although “paradise”, was a prison where he was doomed to obey words he did not believe in. He had to leave this place of perfection to find inner happiness and contentment.

11. “Horror and doubt distract his troubled thoughts and from the bottom stir the Hell within him,” — John Milton

Those who harm have been harmed themselves.

12. “Who shall tempt, with wand'ring feet the dark unbottomed infinite abyss...ere he arrive the happy isle?” — John Milton

In darkness we can find new happiness.

13. “Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more.” — John Milton

Those who are present not by choice are already mentally and spiritually gone.

14. “And evil turn to good; more wonderful than that which by creation first brought forth light out of darkness!” — John Milton

Goodness is much sweeter after having had to suffer.

15. “We live Law to ourselves. Our reason is our Law.” — John Milton

Laws should be obeyed because they make sense. Law followed blindly is doomed to be broken.

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16. “Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” — John Milton

Power dynamics influence morality.

17. “what reinforcement we may gain from hope, if not, what resolution from despair?” — John Milton

Hope allows us to carry on while mourning allows us to leave behind what we can no longer carry with us.

18. “Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep...” — John Milton

Forgiveness is difficult even when it is preached as necessary.

19. “Alike is Hell, or Paradise, or Heaven,” — John Milton

Hell is not so different from Paradise or Heaven. Satan created Hell because he was suffering in Heaven.

20. “Firm they might have stood, yet fell;” — John Milton

Suffering does not discriminate; it can inflict even the strongest.

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21. “We are decreed, reserved, and destined to eternal woe; whatever doing, what can we suffer more, what can we suffer worse?” — John Milton

When there is nothing left to lose, people can commit horrors. This is out of grief more than anything else.

22. “I made him just and right, sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.” — John Milton

Anyone can teeter either way between good and evil.

23. “Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,” — John Milton

Satan saw his war as a just rebellion against a tyrant.

24. “Any but God alone to value right the good before him but perverts best things to worst abuse or to their meanest use.” — John Milton

Good can be twisted for evil use, and evil can be used to beget good.

25. “Yet all His good proved ill in me and wrought but malice. Lifted up so high.” —John Milton

One person’s good may be another’s evil, and vice versa.

26. “Awake, arise or be forever fall’n.” — John Milton

Awareness will save you from bleak darkness.

27. “High on a throne of royal state, which far” —John Milton

Those who make the laws benefit from the laws, but what about those with no choice and no benefit?

28. “Solitude sometimes is best society.” — John Milton

Interpersonal interaction is complicated, but solitude is lonely.

29. “All is not lost, the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and the courage never to submit or yield.” — John Milton

Even when all seems lost, you still have what’s inside you.

30. “Holy, divine, good, amiable, or sweet! How art thou lost, how on a sudden lost, defaced, deflow'red, and now to death devote?” — John Milton

Humans are doomed to embody the contradiction of good and evil.

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Colleen Fogarty is a writer who covers self-care, astrology, and relationship topics.